China has a subtropical/temperate climate, depending on the region. The country is one of the world’s largest importers, exporters, and consumers of timber and timber products. Since 1998, the government has introduced a series of strict domestic forest protection measures including a complete ban on commercial logging in its natural forests in 2016. With its domestic conservation efforts and growing demand for timber, China’s timber imports, dominated by logs and sawnwood, have significantly increased in the last two decades. Despite efforts to tackle illegal logging and associated trade in recent years, China’s timber imports from some tropical forested countries are at high risk of illegality. In 2019, China revised its Forest Law with a ban on “purchasing, processing, or transporting timber that is known from illegal sources”. The National Forestry and Grassland Administration released a draft version of the Implementation Regulation of the Forest Law in 2022 for public comments, but details about how the new article on legality will be implemented remain unknown as there were no further information about legality in the draft Regulation.

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Last updated: March 2024

Forest Management

Forest Governance

According to China’s Forest Law, forests and forestland are owned by the State, except those that shall be collectively owned as prescribed by law. Private ownership can be found in trees and other natural products from forestland. Certificates are issued according to the ownership and use rights of forests, trees and forestland, including state ownership, collective ownership, individual ownership of trees, as well as state, collective, and individual use rights of forestland and trees (Table 1). Among them, ownership of trees and use rights of forestland and trees can be transferred.

  Ownership Use rights
Forests State, Collective  
Forestland State, Collective State, Collective, Individual
Trees State, Collective, Individual State, Collective, Individual
Source: Timber Legality Guidance Template for China & Forest Law of the People’s Republic of China (2019)

The National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA) leads China’s national forestry affairs and oversees the conservation and management of China’s grasslands, forests, wetlands, and wildlife. NFGA provides policy guidance and manage the implementation efforts for tackling illegal logging and associated trade.

Timber in China can be commercially harvested from naturally regenerated forests and planted forests. China imports more than half of its timber and timber products from other countries. 


For information regarding transparency and risk scores in China, head to these links:

Laws and Regulations

Forest Laws

  • Forest Law of the People’s Republic of China (2019): Enacted to protect forest resources, promote sustainable development, and contribute to ecological civilization. This law is the main legal mandate against illegal logging and protects forests in China. Regulations under this law include forest ownership, development planning, forest protection, tree planting and afforestation, forest management and administration, supervision and inspection, and legal liability. The amendment in 2019 includes an article on legality, which bans buying, transporting, and/or processing illegally sourced timber and requires processing companies to establish a data record of raw materials and products (Article 65). The law emphasizes the principles of sustainability and ecological civilization and seeks to fully realize the role of forests in providing economic, social, ecological, and cultural services. The amended law also categorizes forests as for public benefit or commercial use and allows for the adoption of different management measures.
  • Regulation on the Implementation of the Forest Law of the People's Republic of China (2018): this Regulation is formulated according to the Forest Law of the People’s Republic of China and is currently being updated for the latest revision in 2019. The Regulation provides detailed measures regarding the implementation of the Forest Law, including but not limited to issues like timber harvesting, forest tenure, and timber transportation in China.

Transport Laws

  • Rules on the Origin of Export Commodities (1992): Generated to improve the control over the origin of export commodities and to promote the development of foreign relations and trade. Export Commodity Origin Certificate is a document testifying that the People’s Republic of China is the origin of the export commodity. Clear evidence of documents and licenses for all enterprises involved in timber products transportation must be available. Timber transporters not belonging to State management timber sources must have a valid timber transportation certificate issued by a Forestry Administrator. The validity of the timber transportation certificate is based on the timber harvesting license which verifies the legal source of the timber; and the “Quarantine Certificate,” which should be used in combination with the Transportation Certificate.

Tax Laws

Trade Laws

Processing/Manufacturing Laws

  • Forest Law of the People’s Republic of China (2019): Prohibits any individual or company from processing timber or other forest products that are knowingly obtained from illegal or indiscriminate logging, or other illegal sources (Article 65). Processing enterprises must maintain a ledger that includes information on the entry and exit of raw materials and products.
  • Regulation on the Implementation of the Forest Law of the People's Republic of China (2018): Timber processing operations in forest areas must be approved by the forestry department at or above the country level, and individuals or companies may only purchase wood with a forest harvesting license or legal source certificates (Article 34). In order to obtain timber processing license, the following conditions must be met: the timber source is legal; there is a fixed facility suitable for processing; there is technology and equipment suitable for the processing scale; the timber processing business must have a provincial product quality inspection report (or certificate of conformity) and business license.

Criminal Laws

The Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China includes two areas of implications for forest-related crimes, natural resources criminal offenses (Article 344 and 345) and smuggling offenses (Article 151). Article 344 describes the punishment for illegal logging, destroy, illegal purchase, transportation, processing, and sale of precious trees and other plants under special State protection. Article 345 focuses on the punishment for stealthily and arbitrarily logging of general trees as well as the purchase and transportation of those illegally logged trees. The smuggling crimes related to forests are part of the chapter on Disrupting the Order of the Socialist Market Economy in the Criminal Law. Article 151 articulates the punishment for smuggling of rare plants or related products and goods whose import and export are prohibited by the State.


The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement among governments whose purpose is to ensure that the international trade of wild animals and plant species does not threaten the survival of these species. It is up to each country to draft their own domestic legislation to comply with its CITES obligations. China signed onto the Convention in 1981 and has published regulations to implement CITES laws.

Regulation on the Administration of Import and Export of Endangered Wild Animals and Plants (2019): Restates that it is illegal to import/export any endangered wild animals and plants. There are exceptions for scientific research, propagation, cultural exchange, etc., which all need to be approved by the State Council. Must obtain an Import/Export Permission Certificate that verifies legal transport of endangered animals and/or plants.

Species under the protection of CITES are listed under three Appendices based on how threatened they are by international trade. The species listed in Appendix I are the most endangered and international trade of these species is prohibited unless the purpose of import is noncommercial. The species listed in Appendix II are tightly controlled in international trade and may be authorized with an export permit or re-export certificate. Appendix III lists species at the request of a Party that needs other countries’ cooperation to regulate the trade in the species. International trade in Appendix III is allowed with appropriate permits or certificates.

If you don’t know if the species you are interested in sourcing from this country is CITES listed, please check this link. If it is, please use this database to identify the National CITES Authority. In China, the CITES managing authority is the Endangered Species Import and Export Management Office of the People’s Republic of China. China also established the National Inter-Agency CITES Enforcement Collaboration Group in 2011 to better support coordinated enforcement efforts.

Forest Resources

Resources Overview

In 2010, China had 133 Mha of natural forest, extending over 16% of its land area.

China divides forest resources into five categories:

  • Protection forest: Mainly for ecological protection, including water conservation forest, soil and water protection forest, windbreak and sand fixation forest, agricultural and pastoral shelter forest, bank protection forest, road protection forest, and other shelterbelt forest. 
  • Special-use forest: Mainly for tree species resources conservation, ecological environmental protection, national defense, forest tourism and scientific experiments.
  • Timber forest: Mainly used for timber or bamboo production.
  • Fuelwood forest: Mainly used for fuelwood production.
  • Economic forest: Composed of economic, of which main purpose is to produce fruits, cooking oil, drinks, spices, industrial raw materials and medical materials.